Child Abuse in the News – What Is It Telling Us?

In recent days and weeks, there have been several sensational stories in the news that have shined the light brightly on the issues of child abuse and neglect. The punishment of an adopted child with hot sauce and cold showers, the increase of child trafficking surrounding the Super Bowl, a doctor who was charged with child rape and sexual assault, and even an undercover sting operation involving child prostitution just this past week.

All have triggered strong public reaction. The case of the adopted Russian child punished with hot sauce even caused an international response and resulted in child abuse charges.

In response, we have seen the public apologies. We have seen the moral outrage. We have seen denial and defense of actions. We have seen the all-too-common labeling of “bad” parents. We have seen blame laid on the failure of the system. And we have even seen refusal by some to acknowledge what is obviously happening right in front of them.

But what we haven’t seen is an overwhelming response of people taking action to help prevent situations like these from occurring in the first place.

We have seen the shocked responses, but not the determination to prevent abuse. It seems there has been a great deal of the “it’s terrible, but it’s just not my problem to fix” mentality. More details please

The exception, however, is in Delaware. And we can all learn a great deal from what has been done there.

In response to the high-profile case of a pediatrician accused of raping and abusing more than 100 of his child patients in addition to the other 6,500 cases of child abuse and neglect reported to the state’s Division of Family Services in 2010, people in Delaware took action.

More than 900 doctors, nurses, attorneys, social workers, law enforcement officials and child advocates gathered for mandatory training in recognizing and reporting child abuse. Participants in the summit learned more about how to discern and treat child abuse and the significant toll it can take throughout the lifetime of an individual who has been subjected to abuse. The forum provided a place for professionals from all over the state to come together and learn how to do more.

But going far beyond that, the state took action by passing several bills into law — one that even increases civil penalties for failure to report child abuse. All the new laws were aimed at strengthening protection for children.

So what should this tell us? A lot.

The appearance of story after story on our TV and computer screens is telling us that child abuse is a very real problem in our society. It’s telling us that the “big” stories spark strong public outrage and disbelief.

But it’s also telling us that we can take action to change it.

No longer is it okay to sit by and shake our heads at a problem that seems too big to overcome. We just can’t be concerned and have public conversation about child abuse after it happens. We just don’t have that luxury.

We, like the state of Delaware, must take action to prevent these stories before they happen. Before our children are hurt. Before their lives are affected forever. Children in our communities need us now.

The stories in the news are telling us that more and more people are recognizing that in order for our communities to thrive, we must all acknowledge and address child abuse. Whether it’s physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect — it’s simply not okay for this to be happening. At all.

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